Scincus scincus Linnaeus, 1759, North Africa. Four subspecies are recognized.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
French: Poisson des sables, Scinque des sables; German: Apothekerskink, Sandfisch.
These medium-size, pale-colored, banded, fusiform skinks have shovel-shaped snouts, countersunk lower jaws, short tails, and enlarged toe lamellae forming fringes along the toes that enhance traction on loose sand.
The sandfish occurs in the Sahara of northern Africa, from Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya to Egypt and the Mediterranean coast. It also is found in Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and Iran.
These skinks inhabit areas with loose, drifting sand and rich vegetation on the leeward sides of dunes, where sands are not exposed to drying winds. They are found around oases.
These lizards escape from enemies by running along the surface and then suddenly diving into loose sand and swimming a short distance, leaving behind a clear mark where they entered the sand.
The sandfish sometimes swims in loose sand and captures insects on the surface from below. They are omnivorous, preying on scorpions, beetles, other insects, and insect larvae as well as flowers and grains. Occasionally, they eat small Acanthodactylus lizards.
Males reach larger sizes than females. Mating occurs in June, and females lay about six eggs shortly thereafter.
The species once was considered to be a source for a medicinal pharmaceutical against many ailments as well as an aphrodisiac. Dried specimens wrapped in wormwood (Artemesia) were imported into Europe via Cairo until the last century. The belief in their medicinal effects seems to have been based on the fact that they feed on wormwood, which is known to have medicinal properties. They are eaten by locals. ♦
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